Spinal Cord Injury Veterans' Disability Benefits, Outcomes, and Health Care Utilization Patterns: Protocol for a Qualitative Study.JMIR Res Protoc. 2019 Oct 04; 8(10):e14039.JR
An estimated 42,000 people currently living with chronic spinal cord injury (SCI) are veterans. SCI was a common combat-related injury in the World Wars and Vietnam era and now affects more than 11% of military personnel injured in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. The Veterans Benefits Administration primarily offers financial compensation for disabilities sustained or re-aggravated during military service, called service-connected disability compensation. With the overwhelming cost of living with an SCI, this monthly financial compensation can provide service-connected veterans and their families with access to additional supportive resources (eg, assistive devices and personal aide) and maintain their quality of life (QOL). Little is known about personal, health, functional, and QOL outcomes associated with service-connected and nonservice-connected status for veterans living with an SCI.
The aim of this study is to compare the ways in which Veterans Affairs' (VA) service-connected and nonservice-connected status may be associated with health and functional outcomes, choice of health care provider, and overall QOL for veterans living with an SCI and their caregivers.
This cross-sectional qualitative study will gather data using retrospective chart reviews, semistructured interviews, and focus groups. After obtaining institutional review board (IRB) approval, purposeful sampling techniques will be used to recruit and enroll the following key stakeholders: veterans living with an SCI, family caregivers, and SCI health care providers. Concurrent data collection will take place at 2 sites: Veterans Administration New Jersey Healthcare System and Northern New Jersey Spinal Cord Injury System.
This study was funded in July 2015. IRB approval was obtained by November 2016 at both sites. Enrollment and data collection for phase 1 to phase 4 are complete. A total of 69 veterans, 18 caregivers, and 19 SCI clinicians enrolled in the study. Data analyses for these phases are underway. In phase 5, the follow-up focus group activities are scheduled. The final results are expected by the end of 2019.
The factors that contribute to veterans living with SCI seeking and not seeking VA disability compensation benefits are not well understood in rehabilitation research. Triangulation of these data sources will allow us to compare, contrast, and integrate the results, which can be used to develop clinical guidelines, caregiver training, and patient education programs.
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